Koppel stared ahead, looking at nothing in particular. As he dug his fingers deeper and deeper into his desk, fragments of wood and dirt became trapped beneath his nails. He wasn’t sure exactly how long he’d been sitting like this, but from the bottle of vodka that sat half-finished to his left, he figured it must have been a while.
He had never worked as efficiently as he did today. He had spent it in the splendor of concentrated effort, focusing the entirety of his mind on whatever piece of silver lay in front of him. As the sun was setting and he took account of all his work, however, the doubt, which he had worked so hard to subsume, resurfaced. He inspected all the day’s pieces, and tossed them back into a pile. The effort it would take to improve them now was too much work for just a few minutes of remaining sunlight.
How he needed his Rebbe in this moment. He longed for a consultation to pour his heart out and hear the comforting words of a man not bound by anxiety and delusion. The Rebbe would reach into this week's portion of Torah, and pull out the verse, the word, the letter that applied, and guide him back towards the center. Koppel would tell him everything, and in return he’d have his troubles simplified to their source. Koppel would listen, and be listened to.
But with the Rebbe preparing to leave him for the Summer, he knew it would not be possible. He took another sip, and banged the glass hard onto the table.
“How could the happiest man in Radzyn be so angry?” Shmuli the shamash asked, peeking his head inside.
“Shmuli,” Koppel responded, “what are you doing in my workshop? Is it your wife’s birthday already?”
“No, Koppel, I’m not looking for silver. What I need now more than anything else is mamash a joke.”
Koppel grabbed the bottle and poured himself a full glass while Shmuli related the prior day’s events, all of which Koppel already knew. It appeared Shmuli was deeply distressed over misplacing his package, and couldn’t for the life of him remember where he left it. He went through every step of his normal routine, and it seemed as if it had vanished. Koppel listened patiently, and asked himself what good he could possibly do at this point. His degradation was almost complete, and he looked forward to meeting it, undignified.
There was one detail, however, that he was not yet aware of.
“I’m sorry, Shmuli,” he said, before taking another sip. “Who did you say you were delivering it to?”
“Koppel, who do you think?”
The taste of alcohol mixed with something sour in Koppel's mouth. His lips began to curl downward, and his voice cracked as he attempted to speak the only word both men were thinking of.
“The Rebbe?” he said, begging Shmuli with his eyes to say “no.”
“Of course, Koppel! Now, I can’t tell you what was inside, but Nosson thinks he knows who has it. He can’t tell me until he has proof, of course, but he says that he will soon.”
Koppel turned away from Shmuli, and gulped his drink. He asked Shmuli again with his back towards him.
“The Rebbe, Shmuli? Really?”
Shmuli might have stayed after that, or Shmuli might have left. Neither mattered to Koppel. Since he beheld Nosson’s creation, he had been gradually progressing towards an admission of what he already knew. Now, it appeared that statement was made for him.
Before this cup found its way into his life, Koppel knew exactly who he was. Now, it was Nosson’s work, Nosson’s life, Nosson’s gift, that mattered to Radzyn, and the Rebbe along with the entire Court in Heaven agreed.
How, he wondered, could they be wrong? He could stay, or leave, and the only thing missing from his shtetl would be a few laughs and bottles.
Koppel stood up and stumbled, but caught himself on the edge of his desk. He reached below him, where he kept the package Shmuli was so desperately searching for, pulled the kiddish cup from its wrapping, and slid it into his pocket. It just barely fit, and weighed his pants down enough to be noticeable, but not enough to be uncomfortable.
This cup had buried him, and now, he would bury it.